Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

VA Health Systems Research

Go to the VA ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

IIR 20-256 – HSR Study

IIR 20-256
MOTIVATE to Improve Outcomes for Older Veterans with Musculoskeletal Pain and Depression
Una E. Makris, MD MSc
VA North Texas Health Care System Dallas VA Medical Center, Dallas, TX
Dallas, TX
Funding Period: October 2022 - September 2026


Background: Musculoskeletal (MSK) pain is the leading cause of disability and reduced quality of life among older adults. We also know that depressive symptoms frequently co-exist with MSK pain and complicate management. Despite rising costs attributed to MSK pain and depressive symptoms, few behavioral interventions have been developed to address these comorbid conditions in this vulnerable aging population. Significance: The PI, during her VA HSR&D CDA2, developed and tested the feasibility of a novel behavioral intervention targeting older Veterans with chronic back pain and depressive symptoms. MOTIVATE (Moving to Improve Pain and Depression in Older Veterans) incorporates evidence-based components of motivational interviewing (MI), values elicitation, goal setting and patient activation to motivate older Veterans to become more physically active, thereby improving pain interference, function, and depressive symptoms. MOTIVATE is delivered by a health coach via telephone or video during eight sessions over 12-weeks. Preliminary findings from the PI’s ongoing pilot trial of MOTIVATE show it is feasible, improves step counts, pain interference, and depressive symptoms. In response to VA HSR&D research priority areas, this application focuses on improving access to care, augmenting resources for primary care practices – specifically in the areas of pain management and aging, and leveraging virtual care to deliver behavioral interventions to vulnerable Veterans. Innovation/Impact: This research is innovative because we 1) target both MSK pain and depressive symptoms and enhance generalizability of our findings, 2) incorporate older Veterans’ motivation to change as a key behavioral determinant, 3) use remote delivery to enhance reach of both pain and mental health services to older Veterans; and 4) involved older Veterans and other stakeholders at every stage of development. Specific Aims: We propose a hybrid type 1 implementation-effectiveness randomized controlled trial at two large VA sites to establish the effectiveness and scalability of MOTIVATE. The overall goals of this study are to 1) examine the effectiveness of MOTIVATE compared to a waitlist control arm on clinical and behavioral outcomes; 2) explore implementation processes for the MOTIVATE intervention, and 3) evaluate preliminary cost with a budget impact analysis for MOTIVATE in older Veterans with chronic MSK pain and depressive symptoms. We hypothesize that MOTIVATE will improve clinical and behavioral outcomes in this population. Methodology: We will recruit older Veterans with MSK pain and depressive symptoms (n=264) to determine effectiveness of MOTIVATE versus waitlist control arm to improve clinical and behavioral outcomes at 3 (primary endpoint) and 6 months post-enrollment. The primary outcome is pain interference (a subscale of the Brief Pain Inventory) and secondary outcomes include depressive symptoms (PHQ-9), pain intensity, arthritis self-efficacy, pain catastrophizing Scale, PROMIS scales (including sleep), resilience, frailty, and Global Impression of Change. Using intent-to treat analyses, we will compare MOTIVATE and waitlist groups in terms of primary and secondary outcomes by using a linear mixed-effects model which simultaneously models all available measurements including baseline. Concurrently we will examine implementation processes of delivering MOTIVATE (Aim 2). Using semi-structured interviews, we will explore the contextual factors, barriers and facilitators to implementation and uptake of MOTIVATE, among Veterans, frontline providers, health coaches, and facility leaders (n~50). We will use the i-PARIHS implementation framework to inform the discussion guide. Aim 3 will provide necessary cost evaluation of MOTIVATE along with budget impact analysis from the perspective of a VA facility to estimate the costs of implementing MOTIVATE. Implementation/Next Steps: Results will facilitate national implementation and dissemination of MOTIVATE, along with a hybrid type 3 trial, which can augment the care provided by primary care, mental health, and specialty services to improve outcomes in older Veterans with comorbid MSK pain and depressive symptoms.

External Links for this Project

NIH Reporter

Grant Number: I01HX003350-01A2

Dimensions for VA

Dimensions for VA is a web-based tool available to VA staff that enables detailed searches of published research and research projects.

Learn more about Dimensions for VA.

VA staff not currently on the VA network can access Dimensions by registering for an account using their VA email address.
    Search Dimensions for this project


None at this time.

DRA: Mental, Cognitive and Behavioral Disorders, Aging, Older Veterans' Health and Care, Musculoskeletal Disorders
DRE: TRL - Applied/Translational
Keywords: Pain
MeSH Terms: None at this time.

Questions about the HSR website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.